Despite Terry Collins’ indication that Joradny Valdespin will play second base during his time with Tigres del Licey in the Dominican Republic winter ball league, Sunday’s opening day lineup saw him starting in right field. Assuming Lucas Duda and Jason Bay will form some kind of left field platoon and centerfield will hopefully be manned by a free-agent acquisition, the right fielder position will be up for grabs during spring training. And it seems that Valdespin will be given every chance to win that job. Valdespin saw time in the outfield this season in 39 games, which included 26 starts (five in right field). Valdespin saw 61 chances in his 245.2 innings of outfield play posting a 1.000 fielding-percentage. In right field he had sixteen chances turning those into 15 putouts and an outfield assist.
Many Mets fans like to compare Valdespin to Daniel Murphy – a projected above average bat without a defensive position. The Murphy outfield experimentation in 2008 and 2009 consisted of 60 games (57 starts). In the 113 balls Murphy had a chance to make a play on he had 106 putouts, 2 assists and 5 errors. Murphy’s career outfield fielding is a well-below league average .956. Valdespin in roughly fifty less chances has a fielding percentage of 1.000 – however he has taken some question routes to balls which lead to misplays and batters being awarded hits. Still though, Valdespin projects as a much better outfielder than Murphy based on his pure athleticism.
Another way Murphy and Valdespin were linked recently is in the trade market. Many believe Murphy would be excellent trade bait to an American League club where he can spend time as a designated hitter. But the reality is Murphy has turned himself into a serviceable second baseman. Through work with Tim Teufel and Justin Turner Murphy found a spot on the diamond that he’s not a liability and allows him to focus on his hitting. Murphy was second in the National League amongst second baseman with a .291 average, 65 RBI, and 40 doubles this season.
With Valdespin now playing the outfield (at least for the time being) during winter ball, it is likely that Murphy will be back with the Mets next season as their second baseman on Opening Day. With the emergence of Murphy as a suitable middle-infielder, the Mets seem to have a core of Ike Davis, Murphy, Ruben Tejada, and David Wright to build a team around.